[ the chance to say goodbye ]

by pfc kory

After chugging the last quarter bottle of the beer in his hand, Lt. Myron Goldman sat the empty bottle on the bar in front of him. Staring into the mouth of the container, he realized abstractly that his head was beginning to swim. Perhaps he'd had enough to drink tonight, but then again, he was pretty sure that he could still walk, so perhaps not.
Myron moved the empty beer bottle up to his lips, then remembered it was empty and sat it back on the bar. Looking up, he dizzily scanned the bar. Goddamnit! Where was that fuckin' bartender.

"Hey, L.T."

Myron glanced at the short timer that had moved into the empty space next him. Shit! - if he'd wanted company he would have invited Zeke along. The kid, Pvt. Williams, pulled a picture out of his wallet as the bartender finally served up another beer. Myron could see where this was going. The kid just had a wake-up to go before he headed back to the World, and his head was already there.

"That my boy, sir," Williams proudly announced, moving the picture under Myron's face.

The Lieutenant looked into the chubby round face of the little cherub. The child was his father in miniature, down to the expression on his face. Myron's fuzzy brain found the resemblance amusing and he chuckled.

"Name's David, turn one just after I get home," Williams continued, accepting the chuckle as permission to continue chatting to the Lieutenant.

Williams had spotted Lt. Goldman drinking alone in the corner of the bar as he'd entered with his buddies. The Lieutenant was obviously not looking for company, but the private felt for the officer and hoped that, maybe, he could remind him that they'd didn't all go home in body bags. He knew that was how the L.T. was feeling right now. It was how all the guys that had survived the assault on the firebase were feeling at the moment.

His buddies had warned him to keep his distance. They all knew of Lt. Goldman's short-fuse, and the officer had made it clear to everyone that he wasn't feeling friendly. But the Lieutenant had done a real decent thing getting the private transferred into the motor pool after he'd been wounded with only a month to go in his tour. The wound hadn't been bad enough to get him sent home early, but it could be fudged into being bad enough to get him out of the field. Somehow, Lt. Goldman had managed it and Williams figured he owed the L.T. the effort of trying to cheer up the despondent officer.

"Yeah, Maggie, that's my wife, she planning a real blow-out of a party for the little guy," the private rambled on, "kinda silly, really, Davey's too little to understand, but, man, is Maggie ever excited."

Williams paused for breath, hoping the L.T.'d join in the conversation. Myron just sat there staring dolefully at the little face in the photo. Maybe he'd picked the wrong topic of conversation. The Lieutenant had spent the past couple days writing to the families of his guys. Williams couldn't imagine being an officer and having to write home when one of your guys bought it, seemed like it would about rip a guy's heart out. To have to do it for three-quarter of his platoon at once, the private couldn't begin to understand how a guy like Lt. Goldman survived having to do that.

"She's invited just about everyone in town," Williams continued, "guess she figures it'll be a good welcome home for me, too. She's real sweet that way, my Maggie."

The private dug into his wallet for another picture. Myron, resigned to the private's presence, let himself begin to enjoy the reminder that life was still going on out there somewhere. Taking the picture from the private, he studied the face of the pretty young woman. There was something comforting about the photo - the happy, innocent young mother holding her happy, innocent baby.

"Pretty," Myron managed to slur out.

"Yes, sir!" Williams responded enthusiastically, "prettiest girl in town. Can you believe she stuck herself with a chump like me? Amazing, isn't it?" Williams was pleased when the comments provoked one of the half-smiles that the private had gotten so used to back at Ladybird.

"God! I don't how I'd have gotten through my tour without her, sir,"

Williams commented, "wrote me nearly everyday. Course, mostly her letters were pretty boring, but man, they were sure nice to get all the same."

The Lieutenant smiled again. Something about the private's rambling was actually starting to make the world seem a little less bleak. Myron turned to face the private as he continued with the one-sided conversation. The kid was going home, alive and in one-piece. He'd just lost most of his platoon - his presence, his leadership hadn't done shit to save their lives, but at least this kid was going to make it home. Maybe his presence in Nam wasn't as pointless as it was seeming lately. He'd gotten the kid transferred to the rear, and now he was going home to a wife and a baby and a life.

Myron handed the photo back, catching sight of the grenade tossed into the center of the crowded bar just as it exploded. The sound echoed though his foggy brain as he felt himself forced backward. Pain shot through his skull as his head collided with the wall and the world around him faded slowly into blackness.

Williams was conscious of the murderous ache resounding through his skull but he couldn't seem to focus on anything else. The world around him was dark and heavy. He tried to fight back the pain, to focus, but his thoughts were too slippery. The effort seemed to drain the little strength he had, and the Private let himself slip back into the peaceful oblivion of unconsciousness.

Myron struggled to breath through the searing pain that seemed to have taken over his body. The most he could seem to manage were short, desperate gasps that didn't seem to bring in much air. He tried to remember where he was - the bar. He'd been drinking at the bar and there was a grenade. The horror of the memory suddenly flooded back into his consciousness. There'd be wounded, he should be doing something. He struggled to move but it just made the agonizing pain more intense and he soon lost consciousness.

"This one's had it!"

"Just get him out of here, let the Docs sort out the live ones!"

The shouting voices pulled at the Myron's consciousness and he heard himself moan as felt himself lifted and placed onto to a stretcher.

He tried to get his eyes to focus but they wouldn't seem to open, like they'd been glued shut. A weak gurgle was all that he heard when he tried to speak and then he began to panic as he realized he was drowning. He could feel the liquid in his lungs pushing out the little air he'd been getting before he'd been laid flat. He struggled to move, to sit up, to get help, anything - but the blackness pulling him down was too strong and he slipped back into unconsciousness.

Williams felt the heavy weight that had been pinning him to the wall suddenly pulled away. He struggled to pull himself back into consciousness. Tentatively he opened his eyes, trying to focus on the smoky, chaotic room around him instead of the ache resounding through his skull. He could see a body being lifted onto a stretcher in front of him and guessed that was what had been pressing on him. It was creepy how much the wounded soldier looked like him. He closed his eyes again for just a second to shake of the chill that the sight of the soldier had sent through him. As he opened them again he suddenly remembered the Lieutenant. He'd been chatting with Lt. Goldman.

"Man! I hope the L.T. 's all right," he muttered to himself. The private struggled to his feet, sliding up the wall to make sure he didn't loose his balance, and looked around at the mangled bodies surrounding him.

"Whoa, take it easy there, sir.

Williams didn't realize that the soldier was speaking to him until an arm grabbed him. Startled, the private flinched away.

"It's all right, sir, all over now," the soldier tried to soothe the shaken officer, "let me help you out of here."

"Sir?" Pvt. Williams couldn't understand why they guy kept calling him sir. He shook the fellow off, "gotta find the L.T."

"Don't worry, sir, we'll find your buddy. You'd better let a doc check you out."

There he went again calling him "sir." Pvt. Williams shook his head in confusion. The motion sent him spinning in a wave of dizziness and he collapsed against he soldier helping him. Reluctantly, he let the guy help him out of the demolished bar.

"Lieutenant! Lieutenant!" Pvt. Williams heard the shouting, but didn't really register it.

"L.T.! You okay? God, man, figured you'd had it when we saw the bar go up. I got him!" Johnson exclaimed all in one breath, pushing away the soldier helping his L.T.

"Hmmm," Pvt. Williams responded, confused. Johnson was talking to the L.T. but holding on to him. What the hell was happening?

"Come on L.T., let's get ya to a Doc," Johnson suggested as he began moving with the officer.

"No, no, I'm fine. Just a little dazed. Just wanna get back to my hootch," the private had no idea what was happening and he wanted a few minutes alone to figure it out before he had to talk to anyone.

"I don't know, sir, you ain't looking so good," Johnson hesitantly responded. The L.T. reeked of alcohol and, despite his concern over the L.T.'s appearance, Johnson knew better than to argue too much with a drunk Lt. Goldman.

"Just help me get to my hootch," the private ordered with all the force he could manage. If everyone was going to keep calling him "sir," he was going to use it to get out of here, "consider it an order."

"Yes, sir," Johnson reluctantly agreed, helping the Lieutenant to the jeep they'd left parked nearby. He shot a quick glance at Taylor, hoping his buddy'd understand that he wanted him to go get Sarge.

Taylor got the message loud and clear and bolted off to find Sgt. Anderson. Drunk or not, they were worried about their L.T., he needed to let the Doc have a look at him. They'd just lost too many of their buddies to lose the L.T. to his stubbornness. Sarge would know how to handle this without all their butts ending up in a sling for pissing off their c.o.

Myron fought to remember what was happening as he grasped hold of a tiny piece of consciousness. He was only vaguely aware of the sounds around him, but he knew he was moving. Every step sent new waves of agonizing pain surging through his body. God! Wherever they were taking him, he hoped they got there soon.

"Get him to the front of the line"

"Front of the line," what the hell did that mean. He felt himself transferred to a solid gurney. Somewhere in the little bit of consciousness he was clinging to, he realized he was in a hospital. "Front of the line" - the meaning finally sunk into his weary brain.

He was hurt badly, badly enough to get rushed ahead of the rest of the wounded. Myron tried to catch something more from the din of voices around him. He wanted to know just how badly, but the effort distracted too much him from his struggle to breath. Coughing and sputtering, he felt himself loose his grasp on the fragile bit of consciousness.

Williams sat on the bunk, exhausted and confused, cradling his throbbing skull between his hands. He just needed to sit for a minute, get the ache to back down enough for him to think. At least he was finally alone, he was relieved about that.

Johnson had brought him to the officer's quarters. Not understanding and too tired to try, Williams had been forced to allow his escort to guide him inside. For a few dreadful seconds as he was trying to push Johnson out the door, he was afraid his escort was going to camp out with him, but then Johnson had relented and backed outside.

Wham, wham, wham.

The sound at the door startled him, sending fresh stabs of pain through his head. Damnit! They were never going to leave him alone.

Standing slowly, he held his head as a wave of dizziness threatened to send him crashing to the floor.

"Sir?!, Sir?!" came the concerned voice through the door, "Sir, it's me, Zeke."

"Well, at least they're not just barging in," Williams thought to himself, still waiting for the dizziness to pass. Then he remembered he'd locked the door behind him.

"Sir?!" Wham, wham, wham.

"Shit!! Can't they just go away," the private muttered as the pounding vibrated through the floor and up his spinal cord to his weary, aching brain.

"Go away!" he pleaded.

"Please open the door, sir," the voice persisted.

Williams realized he wasn't going to get rid of the Sergeant without talking to him and reluctantly opened the door.

"What do you want?" he asked wearily, still holding his head with one hand.

"Just thinking maybe you ought to let us take you over to the Doc, sir," Zeke explained, trying to keep his voice calm.

Taylor had warned him that the L.T. wasn't looking so good, but Zeke still hadn't been prepared for the taut, ghostly pale face that greeted him. He became even more worried as he looked into his Lieutenant's eyes. It wasn't Myron.

"Go away," the private muttered as he slammed the door closed.

"Sir! L.T.!" Wham, wham, wham. "Myron!"

Williams leaned his back against the door, trying to stop the racket from echoing through his head. He slowly slid to the floor and let his head flop forward to rest on his knees as he gave in to his exhaustion.

The private was dimly aware that his surroundings weren't right as he woke up. It took him a few seconds to realize he was on the floor, but he wasn't sure what floor. Rising slowly, he kept his hand planted firmly against the door to fight against the dizziness. Once on his feet, the chaotic events of night came crowding back into his mind and he stumbled towards the sink to splash some water on his face. He had to clear his head enough to figure out what was happening.

Williams looked up as the cold water dripped down his face and had to quickly grasp hold of the sink as the face in the mirror threatened to send him back to the floor. Lt. Goldman. He reached up shakily and touched the chin of the face staring back at him. The private felt his fingers rub against the stubble of the face in the mirror. Feeling his knees go, he dropped his hand back down to the sink and slowly lowered himself to the floor. Waiting for the wave of dizziness and nausea to pass, he suddenly remembered the body he'd seen lifted onto the stretcher - the one that had looked so much like him. It was him.

He tried to jump up, but found his knees a little too unsteady still.

Rising more cautiously, he made his way slowly towards the door. Opening it, he found Sgt. Anderson.

"Sir?!" the Sergeant exclaimed.

Williams pushed past him, he didn't have the energy to deal with him now. He could hear the Sergeant keeping pace behind him as he made his way toward...he wasn't sure. The private stopped and waited for Zeke to catch up.

"Need to check on Pvt. Williams," he explained as Zeke came around to face him.

"Pvt. Williams?" the concerned Sergeant questioned.

"Yeah, he was talking to me just before... Got to see if he's gonna be all right," he responded, more pleading than explaining.

Zeke was growing more concerned about his L.T. by the second, he didn't seem right at all. At least he wanted to go the right direction. After they'd checked on Williams, Zeke would sit the officer down and have a Doc check him out.

"Wait here, sir, I'll grab a jeep." Sgt. Anderson volunteered, worried the officer would change his mind before he got back.

Williams jumped out of the jeep as Zeke hit on the brakes. Bursting through the doors, he searched for anyone that could tell him where he could find, well, where he could find himself.

"Excuse me, m'am," he reached out to a female officer standing off to the side, "I need to find a wounded soldier."

The nurse darted her eyes around the room.

"I mean I need to find one of the soldiers wounded in the bar explosion tonight," the private elaborated, "His name's Pvt. Williams, m'am."

"Wait, here. I'll see what I can do," she volunteered.

"Maybe you ought to let a Doc have a look at you while your waiting, sir," Zeke pressured, grabbing hold of an arm. Williams jumped, he'd forgotten that he hadn't arrived alone.

"I'm fine!" the private insisted, shaking the Sergeant away. Stepping in the direction the nurse had gone, he impatiently paced, carefully keeping out of Zeke's reach.

"This way, Lieutenant," the nurse announced as she returned.

"Wait here!" Williams ordered the Sergeant before following obediently behind the nurse.

He hesitated as his guide came to a stop in front of a bed. Suddenly the private wasn't so sure he wanted to see the soldier she was blocking from his view. Closing his eyes as she moved aside, he took several deep breaths before opening them again and fixing on the mass of bandages and tubes lying in the bed. He studied him - the blood seeping through the bandages, the tube sending oxygen into his lungs - the deathly pallor of his skin. Williams felt the dizziness he managed to keep at bay start to overwhelm him again.

"Any chance?" Williams choked out as he pushed down a wave of nausea. He didn't need the nurse to tell him the soldier in the bed wasn't going to make but he couldn't seem to stop himself from asking anyway.

"Hard to say for sure 'bout these things," she responded flatly, shrugging her shoulders.

"Could I sit with him for a while?"

The nurse nodded affirmatively indicating the chair that she'd subtly pulled over to the bedside. She seen the pain in the officer's eyes as he'd asked to be taken to the soldier and suspected he would be hanging around for a while.

"Take all the time you need, sir," she whispered as Williams moved toward the offered chair, but he'd already forgotten she was there.

Sitting down slowly, Williams gingerly reached for the limp hand next to him. Grabbing the hand firmly, he closed his eyes trying sort out what he needed to say. During the jeep ride and while he waited for the nurse, the private had tried to figure out what had happened and why, and had finally reached a conclusion.

"Sir? Lt. Goldman?" Williams whispered, "Sir, can you hear me?

Myron felt something pulling him back from the deep oblivion into which he'd been comfortably sinking. Someone had picked up his had and was holding it tightly. Someone was speaking to him. Myron fought to understand the words through the drug-induced haze keeping the pain at bay.

"Sir?" Williams whispered, "Squeeze my hand if can you hear me, sir?" the private paused, praying the L.T. would respond, and was rewarded with a barely perceptible squeeze from the hand he was holding.

"Sir," the private continued, leaning closer to the bed, "Sir, it's me Williams. It's gonna be all right, sir, I just need you to give me a little time. Just need you to hang on through the night, sir."

Myron tried to hold on to the slippery strands of consciousness that the voice sent into the blackness, but he was too tired. He'd managed to grasp that the voice wanted him to hang on. It wasn't the words so much that had reached him, but the desperation surging through the hand that was holding his. Myron wanted, with almost equal desperation, to let go. It took too much effort to keep himself from sinking deeper into the black, painless void that was pulling at him with increasing strength. He was just so tired.

"Just give me till morning, sir," the private pleaded, then gave the hand a finally squeeze before gently placing it back on the bed and rising. Turning away, Williams rushed towards the door. There was too much to do in too little time.

"Anderson, let's go!" Williams shouted at the Sergeant as he barreled towards him, "Gotta get back to my hootch, NOW!"

Zeke only hesitated for a second before following the L.T. to the jeep. He knew the L.T. hadn't seen a doc yet, but the tone of his voice let no room for argument. At least, the Lieutenant hadn't jumped into the drivers seat.

Aware of each passing second, Williams tumbled out of the jeep as it began to slow. Hitting the ground harder than planned, he dropped on one knee, only barely managing to throw his arms out in time to keep himself from landing on his face. Scrambling up, he dashed for the door, slamming it shut and locking it behind him before jeep finished sliding to a stop behind him.

Feeling vaguely self-conscious about rifling through Lt. Goldman's belongings, Williams urgently searched the hootch for paper. As he searched he scolded himself for not having done this sooner. Most of the guys he knew had a letter adressed and ready to mail home in case they bought it. The letter was their chance to say goodbye, in their own words. A chance to say all those things a person always meant to say but never got around to saying. But he'd never written one for fear that saying goodbye would make it happen - now he was running out of time.

Finding some paper and a pen, he settled down to write. His hand was too shaky, making the word eligible. Setting the pen down and closing his eyes, he took several deep breaths and forced himself to calm down. Opening his eyes again, he picked up the been and, quickly but steadily, began his first letter.

"My Dearest Maggie....."

Folding his first letter and setting it aside, Williams glanced at the time. He'd spent three hours writing to his sweet, beautiful Maggie - this was taking too long, but there was so much to say. Grabbing a new sheet, he began his next letter.

"Dear Davey...."

Myron began to struggle as he felt himself slipping deeper into the blackness. The hand that had held his had so desperately needed him to hang on that he fought with every ounce of his soul to stay alive.

Some small awareness kept telling him that it wasn't time to let go yet. He had to keep breathing.

"Shhhh," a hand grasped his and held it tightly, "shhh, it's all right," a soothing voice spoke softly as another hand gently caressed his face.

He stopped struggling as he clung tightly to the hand. He knew he could hold on as long as it didn't let go.

Finishing the second letter, Williams folded it and set it aside. The sun would be up soon, but he only had one more letter to write. Pulling out a fresh sheet of paper his began his last letter.

"Dear Lt. Goldman...."

Myron grasped the hand holding his tighter, although only dimly aware of the increasing light around him, he sensed somehow that it would soon be time for him to stop fighting. He found it strange that after struggling so hard for so many hours to grasp hold of some small strand of consciousness, his mind was finally beginning to clear as he began to relax and let go. Myron found he could manage whole thoughts again, and he found himself hoping that the hand that had so desperately needed him to hold on would understand that he had to let go.

Williams was amazed at the sense of peace that overwhelmed him as he folded up the last letter and set it aside. He didn't see any envelopes immediately handy, so he quickly addressed the outer sheet of each thickly folded letter. Once finished, he rose and moved towards the door. His brain was too weary to think. Only one thought managed to worm its way through the fog that was suddenly engulfing him - the Lieutenant. He should get back to the Lieutenant.

Stepping out of the hootch, he was startled by the weak rays of the just rising sun and quickly threw up a hand to shield his dark-adapted eyes while they adjusted. Sergeant Anderson, asleep in the jeep parked outside his door was also startled, tripping over his feet as he tried to hurry out of the vehicle.


Williams ignored the Sergeant as he carefully made his way around the jeep and began walking. The sunlight, the air around him, the early morning sounds of the base, the smells - he wanted to experience it all, but he could feel himself being pulled away.

Myron's grip on the hand holding his relaxed as the glow from the morning sun increased around him. It was almost time, he could feel it in every part of his mind and body. Soon he could rest in the blissful peace he'd had to struggle against for so long.

Williams knew he had dawdled too long - the time had arrived. Stopping, he turned his face towards the rising sun and let himself melt into the beauty of the reds and oranges streaking across the azure sky. There was still the tiniest strand of resistance holding him there and it took him a moment to realize how to break it.

"It's all right, sir," he whispered to the rising sun, "you can let go, now. Thank you."

Zeke watched as his Lieutenant stopped suddenly a few yards from the jeep. The L.T. stood still for a moment then began to weave and the Sergeant ran to catch him as he fell.

Myron's hand fell to the bed as he let the tension release from his body. Finally he was slipping unrestrained into the peace that had been waiting for him and he welcomed it with every ounce of his being.

The duty-nurse jumped as Zeke flew threw the door carrying his Lieutenant.

"He's not breathing!" the Sergeant managed to gasp out as he relinquished his L.T. to an orderly.

Zeke calmly watched as a Doc rushed in to assist the nurse that had already begun trying to resuscitate the fallen officer. He found his calmness strange, not realizing that he numbness taking over him was shock from the suddenness of the Lieutenant's collapse. It seemed to him that half the day passed as he watched and waited. Finally, the mass of people frantically moving around his L.T. backed away and the room became calm. Zeke prepared himself for the news as the duty-nurse walked towards him.

"Strangest thing, Sergeant, all of the sudden his heart starting beating again and he was breathing on his own. We checked him out, but he seems fine," she informed him, "we broke several of his ribs, though, so he'll be here for a few days. We'd want him to stay for a few days, anyway, though. The Doc will want to check him out, see if he can figure out what just happened."

Zeke found it odd that he would he would get upset now that it was all over, but he felt himself begin to tremble. The nurse wrapped an arm around him and lead him to a chair.

"It's all right, Sergeant," she whispered soothingly, patting his arm, "they'll have him settled in a bed in a few minutes, then you can sit with him for a while." She patted his arm a few more times, then left him in peace to pull himself together.

Myron woke slowly, not wanting to let go of the extraordinary peace of the dream just slipping away. He was vaguely aware of the steady stare bearing down on him as he started to pull himself up, only getting as far as his elbows before the broken ribs announced themselves. Moaning loudly, he only barely stopped himself from collapsing back in the bed.

"Let me help you up there, sir," Zeke offered as he carefully propped Myron up against a pillow. "How you feeling, sir?"

Myron rolled his eyes at the Sergeant.

"Yeah, pretty rough, huh? Zeke answered for him, "took a few years off MY life, you did, sir.
"You remember how you got here, sir?" the Sergeant asked.

"Hmmm," Myron paused to think, closing his eyes and relaxing against the pillow.

What did he remember - he asked himself. He remembered sitting at the bar trying to drink the faces of his lost platoon out of his memory. After that it all became a chaotic nightmare of pain and fear, but no clear images. Then there'd been the most amazing sense of peace, so unimaginable and indescribable that the memory of it was already slipping out of his grasp. Now, he was here.

"A grenade?" Myron thought he could vaguely remember a grenade, "at the bar?"

"Yes, sir," Zeke confirmed.

"Hmmm," Myron responded as he drifted back to sleep. He felt completely drained and hoped, just maybe, he could catch hold of the serenity he'd felt before and rest a while longer in it before returning to the harsh reality of his life.

Zeke watched him for a few minutes longer before rising to leave and it struck him just how attached he was getting to the young butter-bar. The Sergeant was tempted to stay, but he had work to do - a new platoon to build. Besides, Myron needed to rest and wouldn't get that with Zeke staring at him. Silently, the Sergeant slipped away, ignoring the fleeting fear that the L.T. wouldn't be there when he came back.

Relieved to be away from the poking, prodding and constant disruption of the medical staff, Myron shuffled towards his bunk. Despite his eagerness to collapse into it, something caught his eye. Turning, he spotted several thickly folding bundles of papers. He picked them up and opened one at random. "Dear Davey....", the letter began, and a vague memory crept towards his consciousness. Quickly shuffling through the volumes of pages he came to the signature, it was signed "your loving father, Private 1st Class Bruce Williams."

Myron stumbled backwards towards the bed and sat down. Zeke had told him the private had been killed in the explosion, and Myron hadn't really thought about the young man again. He'd lost so many men lately that he'd really just been relieved that he wouldn't be the one to have to write the kid's family. Now his mind raced as he tried to figure out why the letter would be in his hootch. He found his memory drifting towards a painful, chaotic nightmare and he pulled away, returning his focus to the letters in his hand.

Opening the next letter, he found that it was addressed to Williams' wife. He was tempted to read it, but then thought about how he'd feel if it were his letter and carefully folded it back up. However they got here, he'd mail them and hope they brought some peace to the young widow.

Opening the third letter, he was startled to find it addressed to him. After carefully setting the other two aside, he began to cautiously read.

Wham, wham, wham.

Myron looked up as his Sergeant entered, hoping he brushed the tears away quickly enough to hide them from Zeke. "What is it, Sergeant," he inquired with as little inflection as he could manage.

"Newbies are geared up and ready to go, sir. Heading back to Ladybird soon?" Zeke asked trying to keep the L.T. from knowing he'd seen his tears.

"Sending us back tomorrow."

"Heading over for a drink. Care to join me, sir?" the Sergeant offered, the boy looked like he could use a shoulder to cry on.

"Not right now, Zeke. Later, maybe."

The Sergeant could tell that persistence wasn't the approach to take with his officer on this occasion and quietly left.

Realizing with the bang of the door that he was alone again, Myron reached for a cigarette and laid back, resting his head in the curve of his arm and thought about the closing words of Williams' letter. The private had thanked Myron for giving him the chance to say goodbye. Myron wasn't sure how to feel about the rest of the bizarre scenerio the private had laid out for him or the encouraging words that had followed, but those final words had given the Lieutenant some measure of peace.
He'd been feeling pretty lousy for surviving at Ladybird when so many of his men hadn't survived. As he was writing to his guys' families, Myron had thought about going back to the firebase with a new platoon of fresh-faced kids and it had seemed more than he could do. After reading Williams' letter, he knew he could do it and, maybe, he'd be able to keep one or two of them alive to go home.

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